3 Biggest Questions for Team USA Mens Basketball Team After Roster Reveal – Bleacher Report
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Group play at the Tokyo Olympics is set to tip off on July 25, just three days after the NBA playoffs are scheduled to end.
Despite the tight window, a number of players who are still at it have committed to Team USA’s 12-man roster for the international tournament.
Over the past several days, the Athletic and Stadium’s Shams Charania, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski have pieced together the team for the public through their reporting.
Charania then posted the final team, as it stands now:
Shams Charania @ShamsCharania
Team USA’s 12-man roster for the Tokyo Olympics:
Even without Team USA mainstay LeBron James, this group is loaded with talent.
Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard are all-time great offensive players. Bradley Beal has averaged 30.9 points over his past two NBA campaigns. Jayson Tatum, Devin Booker, Zach LaVine and Bam Adebayo are among the league’s most intriguing young stars. Kevin Love, Draymond Green, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton will add plenty of skill and experience. The only member of the roster without an All-Star appearance is Jerami Grant, and he’s coming off a career-high 22.3 points in 2020-21.
Given the ability, versatility and size of the team, it’s not hard to see why it’s currently the overwhelming favorite to win gold.
Even still, despite generally dominating the world stage for decades, USA has been on the wrong end of some surprising results. And there are some concerns (or at least, the potential for some concerns) when you dig a little deeper.
Which questions are biggest? Let’s take a look.
Will Team USA Be Fatigued (Or, Even Worse, Injured)?
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As of the date of Charania’s latest report, Booker, Holiday and Middleton are still in the NBA playoffs. Durant, Lillard, Beal, Tatum and Adebayo have been eliminated, but they were also in the postseason.
After a shorter-than-usual offseason following the 2019-20 campaign, a condensed 2020-21 packed with unprecedented health and safety protocols and playoff runs for a handful of players on the roster, it’s fair to wonder how much gas will be in this team’s tank.
There may be particular concern for Durant, who missed all of last season recovering from a torn Achilles, then missed out on another 37 games due to injury this campaign. And finally, he just averaged 42.7 minutes in a grueling seven-game series against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Even on a team as talent-rich as this, Durant is pretty comfortably the best player. And while an All-Star team like this is built to survive some absences, losing Durant for a game here or there could shake up the tournament.
Is That Kevin Love’s Music?
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Following LeBron’s departure from the Cleveland Cavaliers, it’s been a rough few years of basketball for Kevin Love.
From the start of his career through the end of the 2017-18 season—LeBron’s last in Cleveland—Love had a 3.5 box plus/minus (BPM “…is a basketball box score-based metric that estimates a basketball player’s contribution to the team when that player is on the court,” according to Basketball Reference). Since then, he’s at 1.5.
Perhaps more alarming, the soon-to-be-33-year-old Love played in just 47.0 percent of the Cavs’ 219 games over those three post-LeBron years. And his rare appearances have often been marred by bizarre behavior.
Love has struggled with the dysfunction in Cleveland, so the report that he’d committed to Team USA was surprising.
The Athletic’s Joe Vardon reported on why Love might’ve wanted to be involved, as well as how that involvement might help him:
“Playing for Popovich, and surrounded by stars like he was on the 2012 Olympic team (and later, in a different context, on those Cavs teams that went to four Finals), could rejuvenate Love and otherwise be a very good, refreshing experience for him, multiple sources who know him said. If Love wants to be traded out of Cleveland or the Cavs’ front office would like to move him, playing well (and looking healthy) during a Team USA training camp and Olympics run would be a good start toward boosting his market value.”
As far as his fit on the team and in FIBA basketball, generally, Love makes some sense for this group.
In the past, we’ve seen bruising, 90s-style bigs struggle in the context of modern international basketball. Love, on the other hand, is the kind of skilled player with size who can do some damage against other countries. In the international game, passing and shooting are key.
It’d certainly be nice if Love was a more switchable defender, but he doesn’t figure to have a huge role. If he can offer some floor-spacing in 10-15 minutes a game, he’ll be a plus. And that may indeed rejuvenate his value around the league.
Who Has the Best Shot to Upset Team USA?
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With Serbia’s Nikola Jokic out, and Australia’s Ben Simmons leaning the same way, USA may have two fewer medal contenders to seriously worry about.
France will have a decent amount of NBA talent, including three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert, but the biggest problem figures to be a familiar foe: Spain.
No other international basketball program has pushed the Americans quite as consistently over the last 15-plus years. Spain took the silver medal in both 2008 and 2012, followed by a bronze in 2016.
And though its roster is starting to feel a bit older, the experience and chemistry this group has developed together is something Team USA may never be able to match.
The Americans have the talent edge, but many of Spain’s players are more accustom to FIBA-style basketball, and they certainly won’t be intimidated.